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The Third Coming …. of Firefox

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For those of you not as interested in developments in the “interwebz” and not currently reading my Google Reader share feed, today marks the release of the third incarnation of Firefox. I’ve posted before on why Firefox is my favorite browser, and this latest version improves on what was already a pretty good thing.

Although the race to make this into some type of Guinness World Record (downloads in a day) led to some server issues, by mid-day, most of the issues were resolved.

Anyways, without further ado, reasons why you should switch:

  • Speed – Firefox 3 is now MUCH faster than it used to be. You can see it in the smoother scrolling, the more rapid handling of Javascript (which helps with the loading of web pages AND extensions)
  • Memory – As much as I used to love Firefox, the one thing I absolutely detested about it was its inability to reduce its memory footprint. This was especially a problem for me given the sheer number of extensions that I have loaded. Thanks to an improved cycle collector, you can now run Firefox 3 for hours without worrying about it slowly taking up more and more memory.
  • The “Awesome” Bar – Most browsers have fairly ho-hum location bars – about all you can do is type in URL’s and hit ENTER to visit the appropriate page. Not so in Firefox 3 – the location bar (or “Awesome Bar” as some have called it) is now your interface to all of your bookmarks and even your history. Just by typing in words, Firefox 3 will search its built-in SQLite database for any bookmarks you have or websites that you just visited who’s titles or URL’s match the words that you just typed. Just visited a CNET article on the iPhone and want to go back to it? Just start typing in the Awesome Bar “iPhone” and it will highlight all the most recent pages you’ve visited or any bookmarks you have that have the word “iPhone” in it.

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  • Awesome Bar continued – Firefox 3’s Awesome Bar also gives you rapid access to your bookmarks and to a new tagging feature which lets you quickly bookmark the current page you’re on just by clicking on the little star icon. Click a second time to either store the bookmark in the right folder or to tag the page you’re bookmarking with a description which also becomes searchable when you use the Awesome Bar!
  • Security – Every time you visit a secure site (i.e. your bank, your investment account, etc.), Firefox 3 now displays an icon in the Awesome Bar which gives additional information about the identity of the site in question (so you avoid being scammed) as well as additional information about the site so that you can be 100% confident that the information you’re passing on is safe and secure.
  • Password Manager – This isn’t your dad’s password manager (aka from Firefox 2) – this is a smart password manager. One of my pet peeves about most browsers is that after entering a password and hitting enter, the browser will ask you if you want it to remember the password – but, they don’t let you see if the password you entered is the right one before you say “yes” – Firefox 2 has now fixed this problem with a very sleek and minimalist password remember-er feature which fits as a small bar at the top of the screen.
  • Select text that’s not next to each other – This would require 1000 words to describe… or just a picture (just use Ctrl to select the pieces of text):

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  • Extensions – Not only does Firefox 3 have a new and better integrated Addons manager, but almost all of the major extensions have been updated (and those that haven’t are probably now obsolete thanks to a UI or performance enhancement made in the upgrade). And, as in my previous Firefox oriented posts, I will explain my current selection of extensions:
  • Adblock Plus – This is an extension which actually blocks advertisements from my site (I think the only internet ads I’ve seen since Firefox 1.5 are the Gmail ones).
  • Better GCal and Better Gmail 2 – These two extensions are compiled by Gina Trapani of LifeHacker fame and are collections of Greasemonkey scripts which enhance the user interface for Google Calendar and GMail, the former letting me see multi-line events in calendar-view and the latter giving me access to a Launchy/Quicksilver-like interface so that I can use my keyboard to completely control Gmail.
  • dragdropupload – This extension is Windows only, but basically allows you to side-step the awkwardness of using the “browse…” button to find whatever file you’re attempting to upload or select by letting you drag and drop the file from a Windows Explorer window. Sounds kinda useless, but saves me a lot of time. The other day when I was at a friend’s place who lacked the extension, I found myself completely flabbergasted, as I had gotten so used to just dragging-and-dropping!
  • Firebug – Hands down, the best web developer tool of all time.
  • ForecastFox – An old favorite of mine, it lets me see a constantly updated weather status and forecast so I always know what I can wear tomorrow and how warm/cold it is once I leave my overly air conditioned/heated room.
  • Google Gears – Google’s answer to growing demand for offline capability in web application support – I use it as it gives me the ability to read my beloved Google Reader offline and support offline work in Google Docs.
  • Greasemonkey – I’ve waxed lyrical over this extension before – basically it allows users to use simple Javascript to alter or extend the functionality of a site. Case in point, I use the Greasemonkey script “Advanced Google Keys” to provide me a keyboard interface with which to navigate through Google Search results with. Instead of scrolling up and down and clicking on the next or previous links to get to the next page or using the middle mouse button to open a link in the next page, I use the up and down arrow keys to navigate through the search results, left and right arrow keys to move to the next or previous page, and using the ‘t’ key, I can switch between opening links when I hit enter in new tabs or in the current window. And this is only the beginning of what these Greasemonkey scripts can do!
  • Link Alert – This is a slightly newer extension for me, but what it does is provide me a visual cue in the form of a small icon which shows up next to the cursor which describes to me when a link I’m about to click will open in a new window, or is a PDF, or is a picture, or an RSS feed, or a Word document, etc. etc. Very useful in doing web design and in saving bandwidth when I know that I don’t have the connection speed to load up a massive PDF.
  • Scrapbook – A very useful extension which lets you save/store and even annotate web pages that you find online so that you can see them later. I’ve not only used this to store important pages (e.g. airplane tickets, hotel bookings) but also to assist me in research by providing a library for me to store web pages which I can annotate in.
  • Mozilla Weave – I was saddened to discover that Google was no longer updating their Browser Synch extension which had helped get me through the period of senior year when my laptop was broken, requiring me to eke out time on my lab computers and on my roommate Eric’s spare computer. Thankfully, it turns out Mozilla is beta-ing a new service called Weave to perform essentially the same task. It’s still in its infancy, so I’m not willing to entrust it to store my passwords and more sensitive information like cookies, but it is currently helping me synchronize bookmarks and history between the various computers which I’m currently running Firefox on.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get Firefox 3!

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  1. […] a big fan of Firefox and I’m all for Taiwan’s prominent position in the tech […]

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